Five Pirates Thoughts at Five 3-22-21

My goodness, things are getting crazy in Pirate land. Some people think they’re ready to compete for the division because they happen to be hitting in Spring. Some have given up on important pieces because of Spring.

Let’s dive in, I’m bursting at the seems this week.

1. Mitch Keller Will Start in MLB on Day One

Rosters aren’t built based on isolated facts. So Mitch Keller has flat out stunk this Spring, but it truly doesn’t matter, he’ll start in MLB. The reasons are numerous. He’ll make it mostly because he has nothing else to learn in AAA and sending him back there would do nothing but give Indianapolis an early buzz as he laid waste to opposing lineups. The pitches are doing exactly what he wants them to do, he’s simply nibbling so much that hitters are waiting him out until he has no choice but to come into the zone, then he gets hammered.

Want to suck at pitching? Be predictable. There is nothing more predictable than “this guy won’t throw you a strike with his fastball so stay back and adjust to the offspeed” I can hear it in my mind when I watch him pitch.

This is not solvable without getting it through his skull at this level. Others have performed better, sure, nobody who the club is anxious to start the clock on has though. This is the year to do it too. You know the division is out of reach this season, this learning process isn’t something that should be delayed. Someone needs to be a bit seasoned heading into 23-24.

Yup it’s not fair to poor Wil Crowe or Miguel Yajure. They’ll wind up pitching anyhow, and Keller’s process isn’t tied to anyone or anything but his currently bungling right arm.

Clayton Kershaw right this minute has pitched 9 innings and given up 12 hits, 3 of which were homeruns. He certainly has a track record that will have nobody talking about how terrible he is, but I will say this, it’s Spring. This is not the story of Kershaw’s season any more than it is Keller’s. Sometimes learning a lesson hurts, but not trying to teach them leads to more pain.

2. Leiter and Rocker are Truly Close

These two teammates are duking it out for 1-2 in the upcoming draft and if you’ve called a winner back oh let’s say Christmas 2020, I suggest you take a fresh look. Predicting number one draft picks almost a full year in advance is the stuff of the truly foolish. Thank goodness the decision won’t be made by anyone who would engage in that nonsense way back when.

In fact, unless one of them gets hurt before the draft, I bet nobody will know for sure day of. Oh but, Rocker is a generational talent! Yeah, maybe, maybe there are more than one of those this year. Maybe Rocker will wind up being a closer. Maybe MLB hitters won’t swing at his fastball that bounces in. And if you must already talk about the 2022 draft, please peddle that elsewhere, Mr. Green might not even be top ten by then. Yes, I know, I know, you’ve watched baseball or played it and you know better than me. Cool, you win. Just leave me out of it.

3. Rick Eckstein Making His Mark

His message is visibly getting through. The Pirates have a very consistent approach across the board and it’s making the lineup incredibly hard to pitch to. Sure it’s spring. Sure these stats don’t matter. Yup, it could all be nothing. But what if it isn’t?

I can’t remember too many times I’ve seen the Pirates lineup, at any point in the year really, look like a cohesive unit. Right handers, left handers, switch hitters, everybody has the stick working and they’re truly doing damage.

We quickly forgot how the offense hummed in 2019 under his tutelage as the disaster of 2020 made everyone look like a chump. Perhaps we’ve spent too much time focusing on what these hitters don’t have (POWER) and not enough time focusing on what they could potentially do with a solid approach. This is a question that soon will be answered, but it’s worth noting it’s been rare to see anyone in this lineup throw away an at bat this Spring, that in and of itself speaks volumes.

4. Cahill and Underwood Jr Take the Hill

Cahill did what he does. Went out there and flipped the ball in like Andy Griffith skipping stones, and when you looked up he had 2 scoreless under his belt. Underwood made his debut in today’s contest today and came out firing 94-95 on the gun with a nice sweeping slurve I’d call it. Really nice movement on the 2-seam too. He too tossed a scoreless outing.

Cahill is simply put a mercenary. This is his 9th team, I think Boog Powell is probably proud. All of his outings won’t be like this where he mowed through 6 batters with 17 pitches, but enough will be that he’s a nice tool to have in the arsenal. The way Underwood looked, I’m truly confused as to what the Cubs weren’t seeing vs what we haven’t yet. Because he truly didn’t look like a pitcher struggling for confidence or stuff.

Luis Oviedo the Rule 5 pickup also debuted in this one and he gave up some hard contact and a run. I didn’t see enough to really say what he is, but I can say he wasn’t fooling anyone today.

5. Depth is Apparent

The Pirates may have traded away some guys who are better than what they left behind, but as the great George Carlin once said, “I never had a 10, but one night I had 5 2’s”

This Pirates club is deeper than I can remember, and yes, I’m going all the way back to the limits of my actual memory. This club has always been an injury away from catastrophe and it’s nice to for once to truthfully believe this club could survive a few.

Thank you all for the support as the new podcast at DK Pittsburgh Sports has really taken off. I’ve always been humbled you wanted to read my thoughts and I’m taken aback that you also apparently want to listen to them.

One more five thoughts before Spring Training is over!

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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